Newborn Photography differs in so many ways from wedding and family portraiture. While every genre of portrait photography has both simple and challenging aspects, there are many things about newborn sessions that might surprise you. Here’s what you can expect when venturing out into the crazy world of newborn photography.
“I always love the photos of a baby in a bucket sleeping soundly with her head resting on her hands, it’s very sweet and makes for a cute birth announcement shot. I also love a baby curled up on his belly with his hands tucked under the side of his head and feet tucked under his butt. Most babies love to be in that pose because it reminds them of the womb. My favorite though is a baby curled up in his parents’ arms with his head resting on one of his parents hands. There is something so wonderful about the scale of seeing a tiny newborn in a huge hand that just makes for a magical and very special image.”
5. What Should Your Baby Wear To A Newborn Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
“There are a lot of photographers out there with different levels of experience and different styles so first I would see if you like the photographers style- their props, poses, lighting, positions, etc. Then I would make sure they have done a good number of newborn sessions. I have heard horror stories of inexperienced photographers or moms picking up a camera thinking it looks easy and then having a bucket tip over or a baby topple off a pillow. Always ask for a reference.”
9. What Are The Safety Precautions Used During A Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
“Weighting the buckets and props is a big one so a baby doesn’t tip over and get hurt. Another is the pose itself- newborn necks are very delicate so you want to be very careful with positioning. If the pose comes undone, you don’t want the baby to fall or hurt his neck. I use a very large beanbag that was designed specifically for newborn photography so if the baby does tip to one side they are very protected and are on a soft surface. Also, everything used from the blankets to the hair bows are all washed between every session to keep everything very clean and germ free.”
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I found the whole experience fascinating so I asked our photographer, the wonderfully talented Rebecca Yale, if she could answer some questions about how she works with new parents to get them the photos they will no doubt treasure forever.
Another step in the process that is significantly different is the pre-session prep. For parents, I have a two page document on how they will prepare themselves, their home (if we aren’t using the studio), and their baby for the session. For the photographer, pre-session prep is an even bigger deal. After getting to know the client’s style preferences, I make sure I have all the wraps, props, and blankets I will need for their session. Not only should photographers plan to spend a good deal of money & time on procuring their prop collection, but you will also need to anticipate having a place to store everything & keep it all organized. If it is an in-home session, I pack everything the night before and load up my car in the morning (props, blankets, wraps, heater, bean bag, camera, lenses, charged batteries, memory cards, Backdrop Stand, burp cloths, baskets, etc). If the session is in my home studio, I spend the evening making sure our home is clean and welcoming for our clients (with young children, this is not always easy).
“There’s no way to sugar coat this one- newborn photographers get peed and pooped on a lot. Blankets and props get peed on frequently. That’s why everything is 100% washable and it’s no big deal. You just keep going and throw it in the wash after the session is over. Parents need to be prepared as well. If you are going to be in the pictures, I don’t recommend wearing your favorite shirt or expensive clothing.”
Another unique facet to newborn photography is the comfort factor. Because I am a mother myself, I am comfortable discussing and experiencing all things “newborn.” That includes topics like: nursing, spit up, pee & poo, circumcisions, tongue clips, pacifiers, conversations on birth stories, baby sleep, pacifiers, episiotomies, c-sections, reflux, anxiety, etc. I would imagine that this might take some getting used to if you have not previously been through the boot camp that is parenting. It might be super easy for some and harder for others – just something to think about. You want your clients to feel comfortable so it’s important to be in tune to what they are experiencing in this delicate point in their life.
“Most studio newborn photography is done naked to capture the tininess of being a newborn so something that is easy to take on and off. If you’d rather have your baby clothed in the pictures something that fits them very well is important. Big clothes never look good on anyone in photos, but on babies it really looks terrible.”
“Some good things to bring are pacifiers, a change of clothes for yourself (if you’re going to be in the photos holding a naked baby you might get pooped on), some extra diapers and wipes, extra formula or bottles if you are not breastfeeding, and any special blankets or toys that you want included in the photos.”
6. What Else Should You Bring? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
“The worst thing a parent can do is be nervous. If your baby is crying, you have to trust the photographer to be able to comfort her. Continuously swooping in and handing the baby back and forth can make an infant even more distressed. My advice is to take a deep breath and relax. I know its easy to be nervous, especially when it’s your first, but the best thing a parent can do is sit back and take a couple hours to check their email, listen to music or just enjoy watching their newborn in all these adorable poses.”
7. What Do You Do To Make Sure The Baby Is Comfortable? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Tags:newborn photographynewborn sessionsnewborn photography tips
10. How Do You Handle Pee And Poop When You Take Off That Diaper? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
12. What’s The Worst Thing A Parent Can Do During A Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
1. What’s The Ideal Age For A Newborn Studio Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
All photos were created by Rebecca Yale, who gave me permission to use them here.
11. Which Poses Are Your Favorite? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
My typical portrait session lasts 1-1.5 hours where newborn sessions go anywhere from 2-4 hours. Another big difference is that in a family session, the majority of the time is spent taking pictures. In a newborn session, ironically, that is not the case. The majority of the newborn session will involve either feeding, posing, cleaning up messes, or getting the baby to sleep. It can sometimes take up to an hour just to get one image! But patience is key and once you get the baby asleep and posed, you can get a bunch of great images in a small window of time before you switch the pose/set-up and do it again. When I first started, this slow pace really stressed me out – I would worry I wasn’t getting enough images or that I was doing something wrong. Once you get used to the pace of newborn photography, it can be very fun and relaxing.
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Newborn photography— those adorable photos of infants posed in baskets and buckets— was not on my radar when I was pregnant with my first child. And, I later found out, if you don’t book while you are pregnant, you are out of luck because the poses you see in those pictures can only happen within the first couple of weeks.
3. What If Babies Don’t Arrive On Their Due Dates? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Compared to a child, family, or senior session – newborn is different right off the bat. Being that there is a small window of time to capture those perfect newborn poses, the photographer has to remain flexible date-wise because you don’t usually know when the baby is going to arrive. This could be a challenge for photographers who like to have their calendar organized months in advance. It is not uncommon for me to have to move things around at the last minute (even family obligations) to accommodate our precious newborn clients.
8. How Should You Choose A Photographer? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Newborn sessions are definitely very different than traditional portrait work, but I consider it to be so rewarding. The days and weeks following a birth can be very hazy and hard to remember. Capturing this time for families is incredible – especially when you consider how treasured your work will be, now and in the decades to come.
“One of the most important things is to make sure the room is very warm. I keep the heat turned way up and have a space heater next to the baby. I also will play white sound or soft music depending on what the baby responds to better. This keeps babies calm and asleep (sometimes parents too— I have had many a father fall asleep on my couch). I also never force a baby into a pose he or she is uncomfortable in and let the baby indicate to me which poses he or she is most happy curled up in.”
Because Newborn Sessions are a bit more of an investment for the client, try to go above and beyond in packaging and delivery of the final product. This may take extra time & investment in packaging supplies if you choose to do this as well. It is worth it in my eyes though – it’s much more impressive to receive a pretty package in the mail than to merely download images.
Below are 12 questions and answers accompanied by Rebecca’s newborn portraits all taken in her NYC-based studio.
For a more in depth look into the business of Newborn Photography, make sure to check out The Newborn Workshop for On-Location Photographers. Also, be sure to check out the SLR Lounge Newborn Workshop with even more tips and presets – everything you need to get your started in Newborn Photography.
“I hold time before and after so the parents are guaranteed a space no matter when their baby arrives.”
4. How Long Does A Session Take? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
“For studio photography the ideal age is between 5-12 days. When babies are that tiny they spend a lot of time sleeping and still curl up into very sweet poses similar to the positions they were in when they were in the womb. After two weeks babies go through a growth spurt and will start stretching their arms and legs and will not be as amenable to curling up for a picture or sleeping as soundly, which is needed for some of the poses and photographs in props like the buckets.”
With my second child, I booked a newborn session in the middle of my second trimester, I called the photographer right after Harlow was born along with my friends and family, and then had our photo session when my baby was just ten days old. (You can see my photos here.)
“Studio sessions typically last 3-4 hours which includes portraits of the baby on his or her own and then with each parent and then the whole family together. That may seem like a long time, but usually about half of that time is spent feeding and comforting the baby to get him or her as sleepy and happy as possible for the portraits.”
“You should book your session as far out as possible, as early as your second trimester. I usually book sessions 3-4 months in advance and for busy photography seasons, it can even be 5-6 months out. I’ve received hundreds of phone calls from parents who have just given birth who want to book an appointment and I have no availability left. Then they get very sad because its such a short window of time to take those special portraits and they missed it.”
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For family, couples, and senior sessions – it’s usually a fixed date session and only prep necessary is to discuss styling & location and make sure your camera bag is packed. So – lots of big differences here.
2. How Far In Advance Should You Book Your Session? Image Source: Rebecca Yale Portraits
Importing and culling/selecting the gallery images will go faster than a typical portrait session simply because there are fewer of them. However, editing the images will take much longer (or at least it does for me). With family sessions, I can go through and adjust exposure and add my personal style to the images globally with presets. With newborn images, I have to edit them individually. Regardless if this is done in Lightroom Only with presets or with Photoshop as well, it will typically be more involved than a regular portrait session. I consider newborn editing to be the most time consuming part of the job. While newborns look perfect in our eyes, the camera picks up things we don’t necessarily want in our images (scratches, pink spots, skin flakes, blanket wrinkles, purple tones, etc). I spend a great deal of time perfecting each one so the baby looks as perfect in print as they do in Mommy’s eyes.
When you conclude an in-home session, make sure you factor in time to re-pack your car with all the goodies and putting it all away when you get home. Also, plan to have an empty washer so you can quickly launder & sanitize all the blankets and wraps. Sometimes the stains won’t come out of things, but that’s just part of the job. Think of it as a good reason to shop for more.
An upside to the slow pace of a newborn session is that you use much less memory than you would photographing a toddler or a couple – which means less storage for shooting and less storage & backup space for archiving.